News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tall Oaks Close to Signing New Anchor Store? Keep Clapping, and Don't Hold Your Breath for a Grocery

5781586-aerial-view-of-an-empty-parking-lot-300x200.jpegAfter two international grocery stores have come and gone, the Tall Oaks stucco wasteland shopping center is allegedly on the verge of attracting a new anchor, officials say. But odds are that it won't be another grocery store.

Marty Flax, senior vice president of Renaud Consulting, the shopping center's property management group, says the space "will probably not be home to a supermarket" in the future. He said he is close to signing an anchor tenant for the Compare Foods spot.

"Supermarkets have not been able to make it there," Flax said. "It is still a viable shopping center in Reston. But the way the center is situated, it is hidden. It really is a neighborhood center."
Since Tall Oaks earned the dubious distinction of losing its Giant store in 2007, not to mention a 7-11 and a Burger King -- two franchises that can survive just about anywhere -- the future of the shopping center has been uncertain. After Giant closed, nearby residents started a postcard-writing campaign to get upscale Food Lion clone Bloom to move into the anchor spot, but the company declined.

The problem has a lot to do with the low-margin economics of the grocery business -- because the companies make their money by volume, the big chains want bigger stores -- at least the size of the Giant in North Point or the Safeway on Elden Street. In fact, Giant left Tall Oaks as part of a region-wide consolidation of its smaller stores. And sadly, not even the magnetism of Compare's Susie de los Santos was enough to draw people to the smaller, less well-known international markets that followed in its footsteps.
Tall Oaks now has a nearly empty parking lot and a big, empty space, causing some residents to wonder about Tall Oaks' future as the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force prepares to assess the village centers' role in Reston.

"The community [near Tall Oaks] really depends on it," says Ken Knueven, Reston Association board member representing Tall Oaks and Lake Anne. "Tall Oaks needs a proper anchor. People who live near there want the basics.

"Tall Oaks seems to be the center that gets the least amount of discussion," he said. "I don't think it is malicious. Lake Anne and Tall Oaks represent the oldest part of Reston. The demographics are there though. I still think Tall Oaks could support a Trader Joe's, a Magruders, [or] a Safeway."

While big retail has struggled, many smaller restaurants are doing just fine at Tall Oaks. Mama Wok is a popular Asian food spot, and upscale restaurant El Manantial is thriving. El Manantial is seeking RA Design Review Board approval to expand and add patio seating to its space.
In fact, El Manantial -- an officially endorsed Restonian favorite -- wants to create an outdoor seating area somewhat reminiscent of a Paris streetscape. The plans are actually very pretty looking, although we hope the view improves from a perpetually empty parking lot.

Hunters Woods village center.jpgAs the focus of the Reston Master Plan process shifts to the village centers, it's possible that Tall Oaks could ultimately be replaced by something newer and shinier. We just hope that people don't buy into the "hidden" mantra and replace what is essentially a conventional strip mall-style shopping center with a new conventional strip mall-style shopping center that happens to be oriented to Wiehle Avenue. You could argue that's what helped at Hunters Woods, but that was a bigger shift from a completely different model of retail center that made present-day Tall Oaks look positively bustling by comparison in the final years before it was demolished and converted into the present-day bland strip mall nirvana.

Thinking long-term, we'd personally prefer out-of-the-box thinking to more boxy retail. After all, Tall Oaks has awesome signage, perfect for the permanent future home of the Reston Opera House or maybe an awesome rollerdrome or something, the end.


  1. You may want to rethink your strategy on this, Restonian

    LAVC (not strip mall): not so successful
    TOVC (not strip mall): not so successful
    HWSC (bef strip mall): not so successful
    HWSC (aft strip mall): successful
    NPVC (lg strip mall): successful
    FMSC (lg strip mall): successful
    SLSC (lg strip mall): successful
    RTC (huge-ass strip mall): successful
    Speculum Center (Strip Mall): successful

    Are we beginning to see a pattern here yet?

  2. I agree that Restonian's probably off base here, Convict. But Tall Oaks is currently a strip mall and is doing terribly, and Reston Town Center is definitely not -- and it's doing great. Also, Spectrum is slated to be replaced by something that looks more like RTC and less like a strip mall. Ugly strip malls don't have to be the only retail model that works.

  3. At the risk of being pelted with rotten tomatoes, can I propose that we get a Costco in the Tall Oaks shopping center

    Costco Costco
    Love my Costco
    Good quality low price
    Can't carry this bag of basmati rice

    1. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that site is nowhere near large enough to house the footprint of a Costco. Even if you leveled the entire strip mall. Unless you don't want a parking lot, but that kind of defeats the purpose.

  4. I realized that TO is a strip mall about 2 seconds after I clicked the Submit button. (We really need an Edit feature, at least for the registered users.) But unlike the others, it's not a street-facing strip mall.

    Call RTC what you want -- I prefer to call it an abomination myself -- but, to me, it's just an over-priced strip mall without a grocery store.

  5. Have it on good authority that a Dollar General store has signed a lease for that space.

  6. People hate strip malls specially those that are visible from the street...but they work. Otherwise, the design would have died ages ago. People have cars now adays. We're not in the 60's where people would not mind walking 4 or 5 you need to provide enough parking and be visible from the road...otherwise, just board up the place.

  7. I hope anon @4:28 is joking. Let's at least shoot for a Piggly Wiggly or a Big Lots -- you know, places with standards.

  8. I agree with Anon @4:33...seriously? That's what counts as an anchor store for Tall Oaks? Ugh!

  9. I think "anchor" store is quite approriate for that location. So far it's been a boat anchor for everyone who has been in there. The good news is that if a dollar store goes in there, I won't have to go far to stock up on fly swatters for the Summer season.

  10. According to Dollar General's website their store location criteria, the area must have a "median household income of less than $75,000 dollars". Median household income in Reston as of 2009 is $96,549 - whew...looks like we might be safe from Dollar General

  11. I'm a commercial realtor folks....Like it or not Dollar General is the new tenant....don't shoot the messenger!

  12. Dollar General seems a bit of an odd choice, but here's one possible theory: Maybe, like Food Lion, they're trying to find their way into more upscale, less NASCAR-loving markets. Food Lion came up with Bloom; maybe Dollar General will come up with something similar... like Euro General?

    I'm still holding out hope for Big Lots myself. If we're going downscale, let's do it with class.

  13. The stretch of woods between the Tall Oaks shopping center and Wiehle Avenue belongs to Reston homeowners as part of the RA common land. In order for that land to be sold to a developer, a referendum of the homeowners would be required.

    We need to protect our common lands from development, otherwise Reston will end up looking like Merrifield or worse, Route 1.

  14. If Dollar General is indeed the new tenant, I predict tenant. But guess what, like with Fresh World, I would love to see that Cathy Hudgins is involved. How many more idiots keep voting for her is mindblogging. She decreases your property values with her agenda, increases your taxes and doesn't listen to her constituents. Her community meetings are farse, as in the end, is her way or the highway.

  15. I predict failure. Sorry.

  16. Here's hudgins' latest major issue:

    Some major public meeting at Terraset, for two hours to talk about paint striping on a street?

    PAINT? on the street?

    Give me a break!

    Just paint the lines!


    Dollar General and hudgins' section 8 electorate make perfect sense. It's about time some brainaic figured out that since Reston is stuffed full of section 8 households, that there is a market for dollar stores.

    Aldi? Paging Aldi to Reston's Tall Oaks!

  18. I am a commercial Realtor too and I have it on good authority that Macaroni Grill will be the new tenant.

  19. I'm not a commercial Realtor, but I play a lot of Monopoly. I heard the B&O Railroad is coming into the space. Or is it Water Works?

  20. Personally, I was hoping for Pole Dancing Parlor. I guess I'm still going have to go out to W.Va. to get that pole dancing fix.

  21. I woud love to see a Hard Times Cafe and Billiards there.

  22. How about indoor tennis? The Juicery can go into the old burger king, it already has a drive thru!
    Regarding the Dollar Store- not that I am a commercial real estate expert and I haven't played Monopoly for years, but I don't remember any kind of dollar store-general or otherwise-being as big as the grocery store. Big Lots-sure, and so much classier.
    Oh, and hudgins hater 9:17, you must not be a regular Restonian reader
    You got a peer reviewed study to go with that snark?

  23. Indoor tennis? Is that a thinly-veiled recommendation for the Smyers $100-million boondoggle?

    Is it back alive again?

  24. I too am a commercial realtor, and I have it on good authority that a developer plans to build a whole new commercial, residential, and entertainment complex *on top of* Tall Oaks, then redevelop the original Tall Oaks a la Atlanta's Underground.

    You heard it here first, folks.

  25. Agree with anonymous 6:25. There's no reason to raze common land along Wiehle if the end result is a strip mall that looks like it would be right at home in Dale City. And if it actually winds up getting Dollar General as an anchor, I'd frankly prefer TO to remain hidden in the woods.

  26. Not clear to me that visibility from the street is the problem with TO. Did anyone NOT know that the previous failed stores were there?

    Idiots who vote for Hudgins... ya mean, Democrats? Sadly, they ain't going away anytime soon.

  27. Yay, the cur-Hudgins are back. I missed you guys with your polarizing, one-tracked world view about the all evil Hudgins. It's so refresing to hear your opinions on Hudgins again. And again. And again.

    Anywho, they might try something more experimental to replace the supermarket. They have such big windows on the front of that place. Now, they have these massage parlors in the Netherlands with these nice red lights. The masseurs advertise by standing in the windows and showing how stong thier hands are and how well they can massage. With those nice big windows, there would be plenty of space to see them easily. Now, for some reason, they alway dress so scimpily, so having the shop hidden from the road would be a good thing. They could make it a big budget kind of Cosco style thing, moving customers in and out quickly. And really, who can't use a massage once in a while.

  28. They should put in a Sport Bounce there! The owners would make money hand over fist and everyone with kids in Reston would have a great place to go when there's bad weather.

    Another community center would also be excellent. Reston could have far more classes and offer more meeting space in an easily accessible spot.

    Capitol City brewpub or a Landmark cinema would also be great tenants.

  29. 8:34, they need to listen to you. I'll take any of those ideas over another failed market or, God help us, a Dollar General.

  30. Yeah, OK... Whatever, Anonymous 4:28.

    So, here we are, over a year later and no Dollar General (*WHEW!*) but it's still an empty lot.

    I saw one of these in Vienna -- maybe it'd work out well?


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